I have been impressed (awed, thankful) to all of the teachers we have been lucky enough to have at SAA, but clearly the leadership, vision and commitment of the head of school, Tim Costello, is what puts this school in the 'extraordinary' category. He has a clear vision for what gifted education should be, he is compassionate, friendly and approachable, he is inclusive, passionate and driven.
In my child, I see her commitment to her school work and extracurricular activities as far above her age-matched peers in our public school. Gifted kids have a natural ability to persevere, but this school also fosters and environment where expectations are high, but obtainable, and effort, enthusiasm and commitment are recognized as much as grades.
Significant emphasis is placed on Social Emotional Learning; every teacher and staff is trained to incorporate this in the curriculum. The students are mentored in all areas of development: finding their own voice, respect and support of their peers, understanding peers of different backgrounds, ethnicities and talents. They are expected to put their best effort forward, whether academically or socially. These expectations are modeled by the staff and the older students. This is one of the kindest, friendliest groups of kids I have ever encountered.
My daughter attended a 'great' public elementary school from kindergarten through 3rd grade.
My daughter was extremely engaged and excited about school early on, but gradually became more frustrated, bored, and actually started acting out, which she hadn't ever done. She felt like she was not understood by teachers or other kids, and felt like she 'thought differently". These are typical feelings in gifted kids who are not challenged.
Our public school was clearly not meeting our needs for accelerated or advanced learners; the advanced student 'pull out' programs were minimal, and the fantastic program for gifted students was discontinued altogether.
In the fall of 2014 I enrolled my daughter in the Science and Arts Academy in Des Plaines, and I can say that the move has literally transformed my kid: she is engaged, excited, challenged, happy, encouraged, supported. The school is staffed by teachers who only teach gifted students, so they understand how these kids think, process and learn.
If your gut tells you that you have a really smart kid who is not thriving where he/she is, a gifted school is worth investigating. Making the move has really--no exaggeration- turned our lives around at home. These early years of education are when the kids get wired for success, and matching my talented kid's ability to the right environment, peers and teachers has been more important than any other parenting decision I have made. And, after looking at the other gifted schools in the Chicago area, SAA still outshines the other schools.
Small class sizes and they are experts at differentiation. Your child can be in grade level language arts and higher level math (or vice versa). This is done easily and, most importantly with age level peers! It's completely accepted to be smart, or artistic, or both! Both of my kids enjoy school and have an amazing learning environment.
SAA has an amazing gifted program which focuses on a child's social and emotional learning - its has equally awesome (read: friendly, non judgmental) students and dedicated teachers. Ever since we moved, our child is happy and always challenged - never bored! For instance, he is in grade 3 but according to his capability he is now doing grade 5 Math, just what I love about this school, you can be as challenged as your growth will allow and the school will support that all the way! The general environment, students, and teachers make SAA an amazing place, and we couldn't recommend it enough.
Excellent emotional learning program that focuses on a child's social, emotional needs and values. Community centric projects, buddy-up mentoring etc. besides the day to day feedback loops form a strong part of this.
We did an extensive search to find the right learning environment for our children. We are so lucky to have found SAA, The children are learning in a rich, creative and diverse learning environment. Our children love school, love their teachers and found great friends that share the same interests. We have a wonderful learning community at SAA and we owe it all to the teacher and a great head of school.
Mrs. Centineo is outstanding. She is a gifted-child whisperer. She has a never-ending amount of patience, always has a creative solution, and only kind words. My son and I absolutely think the world of her. When we think of SAA, we think of Mrs. Centineo. She is a jem!